ATHENS — Kirby Smart never mentioned his former mentor’s name, but he has now officially broken with Nick Saban.
Asked on Saturday about Maurice Smith, Smith said that if a player graduated from Georgia and wanted to transfer, he would let him do so without restrictions – even in the SEC.
“Absolutely,” Smart said.
That’s a direct difference from how Alabama is handling defensive back Maurice Smith, who graduates today and is seeking a transfer to Georgia. But Alabama is not releasing him, citing SEC bylaws, though it permitted another player (Chris Black) to transfer after last season to Missouri.
Smart acknowledged that he is recruiting Smith, who he coached the past three years as Alabama’s defensive coordinator.
“Every young man that we want to bring here to the University of Georgia, we want them to graduate from this place. And if they have an opportunity to go to a graduate school at another place, I certainly think that that’s something that we’re going to let them do if they have an opportunity to go, once they graduate,” Smart said. “I think that’s important to know.”
Smith, a senior defensive back, would be eligible to play right away if he transferred to Georgia, which he has expressed a desire to do, but Alabama head coach Nick Saban is not releasing Smith to any SEC school. That would require Smith to pay his own way for a year at any SEC school and sit out this season. It’s not clear whether he’s interested in pursuing that option.
“I can’t speak much about the Mo situation, because he’s a recruited prospective student-athlete,” Smart said. “I can obviously comment that we’re recruiting Mo and he’s a prospective student-athlete.”
Smart put a restriction this spring on tailback A.J. Turman from transferring within the SEC school. But Smart thinks graduate transfers should be handled differently.